Awkwafina on ‘Renfield,’ Nicolas Cage and Her Favorite Vampire Films
Mar 22, 2023
Renfield, the upcoming horror-comedy from director Chris McKay, explores the codependent relationship between Dracula (Nicolas Cage) and his assistant Renfield (Nicholas Hoult). And while we’ve known these characters for over a century, Renfield’s modern twist on the Dracula tale introduces a new character to this world that gets between these two, with Rebecca Quincy (played by Awkwafina), a traffic cop who becomes a love interest for Renfield while he questions his allegiance to his master.
Collider talked to Awkwafina about being the new character alongside this iconic duo, what she brought to this new addition to the Dracula lore, her favorite vampire films, and the third and possibly final season of Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens.
COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY
COLLIDER: What can you tell us about the character of Rebecca and what she brings to the world of Renfield?
AWKWAFINA: So Rebecca is somebody that is almost like a threat to the facade that Renfield and Dracula have been putting on for many years in New Orleans. And then she turns into something else throughout the movie. She is a traffic cop that has been demoted from another position due to her anger issues. I think that she has a lot on her back. She’s dealing with a lot, but mostly she cares about her city, and she cares about justice, and she’s seeing a lot of corruption around her. She’s seeing a lot of unanswered questions, and it angers her. And when she first meets Renfield, it is a bit of a dance, because obviously, he has this horrible secret. But I think they also find each other, and they’re both good people. So she was a really fun, complicated character to play, that was also very angry—which is also fun to play.
Image via Universal
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What was it like playing a romantic lead in the film, because as far as I can tell, you haven’t really done that before.
AWKWAFINA: No, I haven’t! Yeah, I brought that up to my agent, I was like, “What’s up, c’mon, I’m trying to get married.” No, no, that would’ve been very pathetic. But yeah, I hadn’t been, and I still don’t know what that relationship ended up being because I think, even in the script, it might be unclear. But yes, it was my first romantic lead, as you can tell right now, I’m getting nervous even talking about it, because it does put you in that position. But I’m really glad it was with Nic Hoult, because what other romantic lead would you want on screen? And yeah, i think it was fun.
So what was it about the script that made you excited about this different take on the Dracula story?
AWKWAFINA: When the idea first came up and I was being told about it, I had a lot of questions, because I think I had a very vague memory of who Renfield is. So when it was being described, I was like, “What?” I just didn’t understand. And then the words “toxic relationship” and “modern take” came up, and I was like, “Okay, l need to read this script.” And when I did, it was really a pleasantly surprising experience that was this very modern day take of what that is, and has always been, in lore, but also this really cool place for comedy to exist. But also, genuine horror gore and heart.
How did you prepare for the story? Did you research the original story or did you go in blind, since you’re a new addition to this dynamic?
AWKWAFINA: I definitely rewatched some Dracula movies, and because the character is a traffic cop, I had to learn how to move like that. So that was fun and challenging, but it is a really big franchise—if you want to even call it that—it really is something that you grow up on, and [there are] so many different versions of the story and ways in, and I think this is a really unique one.
Image via Universal
So what would you say is your favorite vampire story?
AWKWAFINA: One of my favorite vampire stories is Dracula: Dead and Loving It. I love that movie. I love me some Interview with a Vampire, that one’s great. And even Nosferatu, and all that. Vampires are, in my opinion, the one MVP of those monsters.
And who was your favorite of the Universal monsters?
AWKWAFINA: I think it’s somewhere between Wolfman and Dracula, I’d say. You can’t not do Dracula, you know?
What’s something about Rebecca that you made your own, or what’s a quality that was important for you that the character have?
AWKWAFINA: She was already written a little angry and feisty, but I really wanted to play that up in a way that it was really a deterrent to her. And in doing so, I also wanted her to have stakes, I wanted her to have something that she’s actually fighting for, and there’s a reason, and she has family issues that are plaguing her on a daily basis.
And I think as a result, when she finally does realize that there is this supernatural world that has always existed in New Orleans, I think it’s almost like she’s not shocked, which is really cool. So I think she’s something that can stomach these things that normal people would be like, “I’m absolutely gonna leave.” As a result, she kind of wants to go headfirst into it.
Image via Universal
What was your favorite thing about filming? I know you had said it was one of the most intense shoots of your life.
AWKWAFINA: Well it was my first horror movie, and I think that experience of shooting is very different. And there was a level of authenticity—we wanted to show as much as we could of New Orleans, like New Orleans is a character in this movie. I think that some of the locations were definitely like horror movie locations, and that’s super cool, and you can’t wait until you get out there, and we’ve been fighting, but then you return to your folding chair. So I think that was really cool and intense. And also night shoots, we had a lot of night shoots, which are hard, but it almost makes you feel very together as a crew and cast, and that was rewarding. But I just remember it as being ambitious and that we pulled it off, and I’m really happy about that.
How was acting alongside Nicolas Cage and Nicholas Hoult, and playing with the cast?
AWKWAFINA: It was really a dream cast. I had so much fun with them, and it was also really fun to be in New Orleans with them. I love Nic Hoult, he was the perfect scene partner, and also just co-worker. And Nicolas Cage is obviously a legend, and I think I was really nervous to meet him. And when I did, I was really happy to find someone that was extremely professional and is everything you want him to be. And to also see him embody Dracula and have so much fun with it, and building who that is and what that looks like in the modern day, to see that, too, as a fellow actress was super cool. When he’s on set, it’s just a very cool experience, so I loved working with all of them.
One final non-Renfield question: Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens is coming back for Season 3 and I just want to know if you could tease anything about the new season?
AWKWAFINA: Yeah, we’re doing all kinds of things this season. We went to Iceland. It could be our last season, so in that way, we really wanted to end it in a place that would make people feel good. Thank you for asking about that, I’m really excited for it, so thank you.
Renfield opens in theaters April 14.
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